Disputes over Jerusalem are constantly in the news. Arabs and Israelis are fighting over its future, but God has an amazing plan for this long-troubled city. Will Jerusalem ever see peace? The answer may surprise you!
Today, Jerusalem faces ongoing violence and the threat of all-out war. But your Bible reveals that this historic city will soon be the capital of the world!
Jerusalem is a focal point of conflict in the Middle East. Across the Arab world, millions oppose Israel's hold on this historic city. Around the globe, millions of Muslims hope the day will come when Jerusalem is no longer under Israel's control.
Will their hope be fulfilled? Last March, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with leaders of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, and expressed his support of its efforts to wrest control of Jerusalem from Israel. "The time of fulfillment of the godly promise is near. The Zionist regime [Israel] is going through its worst phase, and is on the verge of elimination. The Palestinians should stay vigilant and support their elected government to prepare grounds for liberation of holy Quds [Jerusalem] and deliverance from wicked Zionist fetters," said Ahmadinejad. He urged Hamas to persist in its efforts "for continuing resistance and throwing out the Zionist tyrants from the holy soil of Palestine. Resistance should continue until not even an inch of Palestinian soil" is under Israeli control, Ahmadinejad said.
Other less strident voices have also called for Israel to give up at least some of its control of Jerusalem. In 1980, when Israel declared Jerusalem to be Israel's "united and eternal capital," the Vatican strongly objected to that declaration. By 1984, Pope John Paul II was calling for Jerusalem to have a "special internationally guaranteed status." More recently, Pope Benedict XVI has angered many Israelis by refusing to condemn all Palestinian attacks against Israel, and by noting that Israeli response to those attacks has sometimes violated international law. In his Ash Wednesday message to Jerusalem's Roman Catholics last February, Latin patriarch Michel Sabbah criticized Israeli policy, calling for an end to "the evil of occupation, with all of its oppression," and denounced "the Israeli soldiers who, at any time, enter our Palestinian cities, kill people, take prisoners, uproot trees, and destroy houses."
To understand the future of Jerusalem, we need to understand its past. After Rome fell, Jerusalem came under the control of the Byzantine Empire until Muslim armies conquered the city in 638. In 1099, the First Crusade saw control of Jerusalem pass to European invaders, who held it until 1187 when it was taken by the Muslim general Saladin, whose successor al-Khamil gave the city to Emperor Frederick II of the Holy Roman Empire in 1228. In 1244 the Ayyubids of Egypt took Jerusalem, and it remained under Egyptian rule until 1516, when armies of the Ottoman Empire seized the city.
Four centuries later, during World War I in 1917, General Edmund Allenby commanded the British forces that defeated the Ottoman Turks and occupied Jerusalem. Britain issued the Balfour Declaration in November 1917, declaring its plan to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and the League of Nations ratified the Declaration in 1922.
The League of Nations fell apart. But in November 1947, another international body—the newly created United Nations—passed General Assembly Resolution 181, which included a plan to put the area around Jerusalem under international control. A year later, Arabs and Israelis went to war, and the United Nations' hopes for peace in the region were dashed. From 1947 to 1967, West Jerusalem remained under Israeli control, while Jordan administered the territory of East Jerusalem.
In the "Six-Day War" of 1967, Israeli forces countered Arab attacks and took control of East Jerusalem, uniting the whole city under Jewish rule for the first time in nearly 1,900 years. Not since the Roman general Titus and his army destroyed the city in 70ad had Jerusalem been under Jewish governance.
Since 1967, Jerusalem has remained under Israeli administration. Yet tensions persist in this densely peopled city, with an estimated population above 700,000. About 32 percent of the city's population are Arab Muslims, who often find themselves in conflict with the 65 percent of the population who are Jewish.
Can Israel and the Arab states find peace while Jerusalem remains a source of conflict? Will the city ever be the capital of a Palestinian state? Will it come under international control? Your Bible shows that the conflict over Jerusalem will be a central focus of end-time events.
Jerusalem today is a city of many faiths; one survey in 2006 identified 1,200 synagogues, 150 churches and 70 mosques within its boundaries.
Jews look to Jerusalem as the city of the great prophets, and as the capital of the Kingdom of Israel and Judah under King David and his son King Solomon. Ancient Israel's first and second temples, in Jerusalem, were the center of Jewish worship until the Romans destroyed the city in 70ad. Today, Jews worship at the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, which they believe is the only surviving element of the Second Temple now accessible to Jewish worshipers.
Jerusalem is also the third most holy city of Islam, after Mecca and Medina. Today, the Mosque of Omar, also called the Dome of the Rock, dominates the Temple Mount. The Arabic term for the Temple Mount is al-Haram as-Sharif, which means "The Noble Sanctuary." Muslims believe that Muhammad ascended to heaven from there.
Christians remember Jerusalem as the place where the Savior was crucified, and where He taught in the Temple—and as the place to which He will return to establish His kingdom, with Jerusalem as world capital.
What does Bible prophecy reveal will happen to Jerusalem? Eventually, this ancient city will be the capital of the whole world. But before that time, dramatic military movements will affect Jerusalem. A time will come, near the end of the age, when enemy armies will invade the Holy Land and surround the city of Jerusalem. As Jesus Christ Himself warned, "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near" (Luke 21:20).
These will not be just any armies of the Middle East; Christ's prophecy shows that these will be armies of the Gentiles. He continued: "For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" (vv. 22–24).
Be sure to read the parallel accounts in Matthew 24 and Mark. 13. As you read these, note that the destruction of Jerusalem in 70ad was a prophetic foreshadowing of the end-time desolation described in these prophecies.
After Jerusalem falls again to Gentile control, for how long will the Gentiles remain in charge? The answer is in the book of Revelation, which confirms that at the end of this age, Israel will once again lose control of Jerusalem. The Apostle John wrote: "Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, 'Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months'" (Revelation 11:1–2).
Yes, Jerusalem will be under the control of the Gentiles for 42 months at the end of the age. As you read through the book of Revelation, you will see that this period of three and one-half years precedes the return of Christ. Two prophets of God will witness with great power during that same period of three and one-half years (Revelation 11:3–15). These two witnesses will contend with the Gentile force then dominating the Middle East.
The prophet Daniel received a vision from an angel, giving us another perspective about Jerusalem's future. When he asked about the meaning of the vision, the angel told him: "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end" (Daniel 12:9). More than 2,500 years later, we can now understand these prophecies—this is the time of the end! Then: "And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days" (v. 11). God reveals that at the time of the end, shortly before the return of Christ, the daily sacrifice will be stopped, or "taken away." This obviously implies that the sacrifices must be started, before they can be stopped! There are indeed Orthodox Jews who are already planning to reinstate animal sacrifices when it becomes possible to do so. At the moment, however, Jews are not allowed to publicly worship on the Temple Mount, so it remains to be seen where and when the Jews will begin sacrificing. It will likely take a national crisis to precipitate that event.
Notice the other key item Daniel mentions, "the abomination of desolation." What is it? Historically, the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes issued a decree in 167bc that prohibited sacrifices in the Jerusalem Temple. The Jewish historian Josephus described Antiochus's actions: "He [Antiochus] also spoiled the temple, and put a stop to the constant practice of offering a daily sacrifice of expiation for three years and six months." Josephus also explains how Antiochus profaned the altar. "Now Antiochus was not satisfied either with his unexpected taking the city, or with its pillage, or with the great slaughter he had made there… he compelled the Jews to dissolve the laws of their country, and to keep their infants uncircumcised, and to sacrifice swine's flesh upon the altar" (Wars of the Jews, Book I, Chapter 1, Sections 1–2).
Antiochus further profaned the temple. He erected a statue of Jupiter Olympus in the temple and directed everyone to worship it. This abomination, referred to in chapters 8 and 11 of Daniel's prophecy, was a foreshadowing of an end-time event. This is what Jesus said: "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains" (Matthew 24:15–16).
Jesus warns us to be alert to an end-time abomination of desolation. Just as Antiochus Epiphanes profaned the Temple in 167bc and prohibited the sacrifices, so a future profane authority will prohibit sacrifices. What or who will be this end-time Abomination of Desolation? Notice: "Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4).
Yes, a great false prophet will sit in the temple of God. You need to be alert. You need to understand the future. Do not let yourself be deceived.
This false prophet will perform amazing signs. Notice this description: "Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived" (Revelation 13:11–14).
While the Beast power controls Jerusalem, God's two witnesses will prophesy and prepare the way for the Messiah, the King of kings, to take over Jerusalem, and the whole world. The book of Revelation describes the work of two end-time prophets. "And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth" (Revelation 11:3).
The book of Revelation goes on to explain that at the end of their witness, the Beast power will overcome and kill these two prophets, but God will resurrect them after three days, to the astonishment of their enemies. God will then begin His judgment by causing a great earthquake in the city. Seven thousand will die. Then the seventh trumpet will sound the good news of the Messiah's return to earth. "Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!'" (v. 15).
Today we live in a world of war and terrorism. Nations strive for peace. But, as the Apostle Paul cautioned us, "As it is written: 'There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God'" (Romans 3:10–11). He continues: "Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes" (vv. 15–18).
The only one who will bring us world peace, is the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He is coming back as King of kings, and Lord of lords, as it tells us in Revelation 19:16. And Scripture tells us the exact location to which He will return: "Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east" (Zechariah 14:3–4). The Mount of Olives is just east of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, across the Kidron Valley.
Jerusalem will be prosperous and flourishing when the Messiah rules the world from Jerusalem. Notice this description: "And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur. And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be—'The Lord is one,' and His name one" (Zechariah 14:8–9).
I hope you are looking forward to that day foretold by the prophet Isaiah. "O Zion, you who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, you who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, 'Behold your God!'" (Isaiah 40:9).
Yes, as we have seen, the Messiah is coming to Jerusalem! The whole world will soon understand, that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the Messiah. Remember the Rock of Israel? Speaking of ancient Israel, the Apostle Paul writes, "Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:1–4). Yes, that Rock was the Messiah—and He will soon return!
As Isaiah wrote: "Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young" (Isaiah 40:10–11).
Yes, the Lord will save His people, and He will educate and wisely rule over all nations. Notice this prophecy concerning Jerusalem. "The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it" (Isaiah 2:1–2).
Mountains are a biblical symbol for a kingdom or government. Isaiah states plainly that the Lord's kingdom will be established in Jerusalem. All nations will submit to the new world government. This will not be government in the hands of selfish human beings. The new government will be a world-ruling divine Kingdom—the Kingdom of God. This world-ruling kingdom will be governed by the Messiah, the King of kings, Jesus Christ! That is the good news we all look forward to. I hope that you are looking forward to that time of world peace! I hope that you are yearning for the Kingdom to come! I hope you are praying for the Kingdom to come, as we are taught to pray in Matthew 6:10!
Notice this beautiful description of future life in Jerusalem: "Thus says the Lord: 'I will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, The Mountain of the Lord of hosts, The Holy Mountain.' Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand because of great age. The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets'" (Zechariah 8:3–5).
The city of Jerusalem will finally live up to its name, "City of Peace," because the Messiah, Jesus Christ will actually dwell there. Only then will the whole world begin to experience genuine peace.
Jerusalem will be the capital of planet earth, and you can have a part in the glorious Kingdom ruled from that capital. Tomorrow's world will be here sooner than you realize. As events move toward this wonderful climax, be sure you are watching world news in the light of Bible prophecy!